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Friday, Dec 19th

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Afghan opium poppy yield hits all-time high

Afghan poppy yieldOpium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan has hit an all-time high despite years of counter-narcotics efforts that have cost the US $7.6bn (£4.7bn), according to a US government watchdog.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime reported that Afghan farmers grew an “unprecedented” 209,000 hectares (523,000 acres) of opium poppy in 2013, surpassing the previous high of 193,000 hectares in 2007, said John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction.

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Ultra-Orthodox Jews attack Jerusalem buses over ad

Ultra orthodox Jews attack busesDozens of ultra-Orthodox Jews hurled stones and slashed the tires of buses bearing ads promoting female worship at a key Jerusalem holy site, Israeli police said Tuesday.

The attack, which happened on Monday night in Jerusalem's ultra-Orthodox Mea Shearim neighborhood, underscores the still simmering tensions in Israel over religious extremists who want to separate the sexes in public spaces.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said police units were dispatched to quell the violence in Mea Shearim where about 50 men slashed tires and pelted the buses with stones.

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Jews buy homes in contested Arab area of Jerusalem

Selwan, JerusalemResidents of a hotly contested part of east Jerusalem said armed Israeli guards moved into two buildings in the area before dawn Monday — a step likely to raise already heightened tensions in the disputed neighborhood.

A similar move last month in the same neighborhood of Silwan drew sharp condemnation from the U.S. and created a high-profile spat with Israel.

Ateret Cohanim, an organization that settles Jews in Arab areas of east Jerusalem, said it facilitated the purchase of the two buildings from their Arab owners. Spokesman Daniel Lurie said the buildings contain nine apartment units and that Jewish families and religious studies students would soon move into the properties, immediately doubling the Jewish presence in that section of Silwan.

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Gaza plan 'relieves Israel of responsibility'

gaza PlanA massive U.N.-supervised project to rebuild Gaza got underway earlier last week, but officials in Gaza and Ramallah are already doubtful that it will bring immediate aid to residents of the battered strip. The reconstruction plan calls for a highly intricate monitoring system, with restrictive measures on the import and distribution of building materials.

This comes at the behest of the Israelis, who have long barred the entry of basic construction materials — including cement, metal pipes and steel — into Gaza, insisting that they are "dual use" items that Hamas could use to build underground tunnels for military purposes.

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5 Yr-Old Palestinian Girl Dies After Being Hit by Settler Driver

Palestinian girl diesA Palestinian girl died after being hit by a car driven by a Jewish West Bank settler who fled the scene.

Einas Khalil, 5, died hours after being struck near the central West Bank town of Sinjil, located northeast of Ramallah. Another 5-year-old Palestinian girl also was injured.

Residents of the Palestinian town accused the driver, 29, of the Yitzhar settlement, of deliberately hitting the girls, who were walking home from kindergarten.

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Suicide Bomber Kills 21 Outside Baghdad Mosque

Baghdad bomber kills 19A suicide bomber has detonated explosives at a Shia mosque in western Baghdad, killing at least 21people, security and medical officials said.

The blast in the Harthiyah area, which also wounded at least 30 people, is the latest in a string of bombings in the Iraqi capital that have killed dozens of people in recent days.

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Hong Kong protest clashes leave 20 injured

Hong Kong protestsDozens of Hong Kong police with shields and helmets pushed into a crowd of protesters gathered at barricades in the territory’s densely populated Mong Kok shopping district early on Sunday, striking them repeatedly with batons.

Twenty people were injured in the Mong Kok clashes, in what was a fourth night of heightened violence.

Tens of thousands of protesters have come out over the past three weeks to demand greater electoral freedoms from Beijing, and Hong Kong’s public has been split —some support their agenda while others oppose the disruption of business in the Asian finance hub.

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